I went with my eighty-three year old friend, Elizabeth, to see 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' the other day, after having just re-read the book preparatory to beginning the new one. (I've since finished re-reading 'The Half-Blood Prince' - is it Sirius? - and will begin the new book this weekend.) We both enjoyed the film production. My friend has been a therapist for many years, and I have the theological and pastoral counseling background, as well as my own healing work, so we approached the film from those angles.
Up until this most recent re-reading and viewing, I was starting to feel that the books were getting 'too dark' - but now I realize I was wrong about that. These books are just the most phenomenal creation! Nearly every fairy-tale motif and folk-fantasy is represented within their pages, and the psycho-spiritual wisdom is simply astounding. Not to mention the author's grasp on the psychology of the young, as represented by Harry in particular. In fact, what she was doing in these later books escaped me until I re-read them. So glad I did!
For example, the thoroughly repulsive character of the werewolf Fenria Grayback - isn't that the name? - and the presence of vampires, particularly turned me off on my first read-through. But on the second go-round, I realized that children and youth today, seemingly more than ever before, (although perhaps in one form or another it's always been this way), are up against the worst energy-sucking seductions and predations imaginable. Unlike the children of my generation who saw films like 'Frankenstein' and 'Dracula' and knew it was fiction, kids today have seen 'The Silence of the Lambs' and heard about Jeffrey Dalmer. Worst case scenarios, I know, but on a subtler form this sort of thing goes on all the time. One bite of certain substances and one is tainted with an unhealthy desire for the rest of one's life. One sexual encounter without protection, and one has a potentially fatal incurable disease. We didn't grow up with these challenges. Why shouldn't the young be given the opportunity to deal with their challenges in a fictional fantasy form?
My friend Elizabeth gave me a book by Bruno Bettelheim, explaining how Grimm's fairy-tales, for example, enable children to begin to confront the terrible difficulty, predation and horror of the world in a fantasy-form, geared to their imaginations, and often showing the way out. The world is not the sanitized, safe place many parents long for it to be. I know some people disapprove of the Harry Potter tales, but I see them as being very valuable for our times.